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Colon Cancer Screening for the Uninsured

Uninsured? You still have options.


Updated: July 5, 2008

Even though most colorectal cancer is completely curable if diagnosed early, it's still the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. That's why screening is so important. Did you know that getting a colonoscopy can reduce the average person's risk of dying from colorectal cancer by 90%? Ninety percent! Pretty convincing, right? But what if you're uninsured?

Out-of-Pocket Price for the Uninsured

Approximately 47 million Americans are uninsured and many assume they can't afford colon cancer screening. If insurance isn't going to pay for it, knowing how much the test costs becomes a lot more important. Some tests aren't as expensive as you might expect; the cost of others may surprise you. Here are the basics:

You may be able to afford some form of screening even if you're uninsured. Why not check with nearby healthcare providers to see how much they'd charge and if they offer any payment plans? If paying for a test isn't feasible, financial help may be available from some of the following state and local resources.

Medicaid Assistance for the Uninsured

Medicaid is a federal healthcare program administered by individual states. That means the federal government tells states: you can do this, you can't do that, and here's some stuff you can do if you want to, but you don't have to. Colon cancer screening falls into the last category. States are authorized to cover the screening, but each one gets to decide what kind of screening it will provide and under what circumstances. How can you find out what Medicaid covers in your state? Keep reading.

State Screening Programs for the Uninsured

The website for your state's government should have information about healthcare resources in your state, county, and possibly your city or town. The web address is usually your state sandwiched between "www" and "gov" (e.g., www.maryland.gov). Another great resource for uninsured individuals is GovBenefits.gov. The site can help you find and determine your eligibility for state-administered programs like Medicaid.

Local Screening Programs for the Uninsured

Sometimes mobile screening centers visit communities and offer free cancer screening. Your local health department may do the same or offer free screening days on-site at the clinic or hospital. Two good ways to find local health resources are to search the yellow pages online or check the blue pages in your phone book. (The blue pages provide organizational and contact information for state and local government entities.)

Additional Resources for the Uninsured

Benefits CheckUp offers an online questionnaire that can help uninsured individuals identify private or government programs to help with prescription drug and other healthcare issues.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also sponsors a "Screening for Life" program that reimburses participating health departments for cancer screening. When you contact your state or local health department, you may want to ask if they participate in CDC's "Screening for Life" program. Yes, they're the ones who should bring it up, but we all know that sometimes you have to ask a question just right to get the answer (or service) you're seeking.

The CDC also set up five screening centers in the U.S. where uninsured and underinsured individuals can get free or reduced-cost colon cancer screening (as well as other types of tests). You can learn more about these centers at the Find a Local Program portion of the CDC's website.

If you'd like to share this article with others, please feel free to print the Colon Cancer Screening for the Uninsured pamphlet.

Related Articles:


"Action Plan on Colorectal Cancer for the State of Texas: Financial and Policy Issues: Costs and Cost-Effectiveness." Texas Cancer Data Center 2 Jun. 2006. Accessed 28 Jan. 2007. [http://www.tcc.state.tx.us/colonplan/financial.html].

"Frequently Asked Questions About Colon Cancer." American Cancer Society Accessed 28 Jan. 2007. [http://www.cancer.org/docroot/cri/content/CRI_2_6x_Frequently_Asked_Questions_About_Colon_Cancer.asp].

"Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006." U.S. Census Bureau August 2007. Accessed 3 Sep. 2007 [http://www.census.gov/prod/2007pubs/p60-233.pdf].

"Medicaid Program: General Information: Overview." Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 25 Apr. 2006. Accessed 28 Jan. 2007 [http://www.cms.hhs.gov/MedicaidGenInfo].

"Screening for Life: Tests for Breast, Cervical and Colorectal Cancer." Deleware Health and Social Services 3 Nov. 2006. Accessed 28 Jan. 2007 [http://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/dpc/sfl.html].

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